Bristol Sonics put in a battling display against a Royal Marines side which pulled away late in the game to record a 22-46 win. It came down to fitness in the end as the Sonics, with only 2 interchanges available on the night, tired in the last 15 minutes to let the Services team run in some late tries to seal the victory.

The Sonics arguably had the best of a see-saw first half and got their noses in front 3 times only for the Marines to haul them back in. After just 5 minutes captain Alex Potts put the home side ahead with a short range try after some strong carries from the Sonics pack. The Marines struck back through a misfielded kick but Potts was over again from the resulting kick-off as the left edge forced an error and winger Phil Tanner found his captain who barged through 2 defenders to score.

A well-worked try out wide from the Marines levelled things up again at 12-12 before the Sonics grabbed their third – this time Tanner turned scorer thanks to a great offload from centre Mike Gaston. Dom Swann added his 3rd conversion of the evening before a soft try let the visitors back in at 18-18. The Sonics finished the half with a period of pressure on the Marines line but will feel frustrated not to have added to their total whilst the Marines were down to 12 men after a yellow card. Three good scoring chances were missed before the half time whistle went.

The second half was always going to be tougher proposition for the Sonics given their limited bench as a number of players were unavailable due to work and other commitments. It remained a tight encounter in the early stages but the Marines struck first and managed to build up a 2 try lead. Swann pulled one back after collecting his own chip to cross out wide but it proved to be the only points of the second half. With the game still in the balance the home side started to tire badly and the fresher Marines team started to find some holes. Two long range tries sealed the victory and although the Sonics kept battling they couldn’t get over the line. Joe Singleton should have grabbed a consolation but knocked on over the line to leave the final score at 22-46. Perhaps a bit flattering to the Marines but they certainly deserved the win.

Sonics man of the match went to Josh Stupples after a storming performance at prop on his return to the team.



Bristol Sonics began their West of England League campaign with a comfortable 62-0 victory over local rivals Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue.


The Sonics scored 11 tries in total, with fullback Mike Norman grabbing a hat-trick, and Tom and Rob Verber each claiming a brace. Player/coach Dom Swann finished with nine conversions.


Following their withdrawal from Conference League South earlier in the year, Bristol began the West of England League season in confident fashion. The 19-man match-day squad contained 10 debutants, including two graduates from the club’s successful under-16 academy team. They were joined by a raft of regulars from the club’s doomed 2014 Conference League South campaign,


The Sonics had the better of the opening exchanges, opening the scoring on six minutes via a 40-metre diagonal run to the try line from loose forward Rob Verber. Five minutes later Bristol extended their lead, Mike Norman picking up a grounded off-load from Mike Gaston to zip in underneath the posts.


Somerset hit back, and enjoyed a spell of pressure that tested the resolution of the home side’s defence. Bristol held firm, though, and edged further ahead on 25 minutes thanks to a stunning 65-metre try from Norman.


Although the Sonics held a 16-0 lead at half time, the game remained in the balance. Somerset tired quickly in the second half, though, and Bristol ran riot, notching up eight tries in the process.


Mike Gaston began the rout a minute into the half, scooping up an attempted interception from Somerset to trot in unopposed out wide. Six minutes later Rob Verber notched up his second try of the afternoon, forcing his way over from close range after some weak Vikings tackling.


Two tries in eight minutes from brother Tom Verber – the second from a brilliant slip pass from former skipper Dom Swann – extended Bristol’s lead further, before Max Woodward marked an impressive debut with a try following a surging 35 metre run down the left.


Mike Norman completed his hat-trick on 67 minutes, scooting out from a play the ball 45 metres out and rounding the last remaining Vikings defender. Another debutant was next on the scoreboard, Gerry Darley capping a fine performance with a first try for the club. The rout was completed with two minutes to go, when replacement winger Shervin Ghassemlou scorched down the wing and cut back inside, before turning Somerset’s full back and touching down in the corner.


Player/coach Dom Swann was happy with his side’s performance. He said: “I was really impressed by the team today. We defended really well and barely looked like conceding. In attack we made a few errors, but played a good, controlled game, with occasional bursts of flowing rugby. After the winter we’ve had, it’s great getting back on the field and performing strongly. There will be tougher tests ahead, but this was an excellent start.”


Attention now turns to the “open meeting” the Sonics’ have called to discuss the future of Rugby League in Bristol. The meeting takes place on Sunday 10th May at Dings Crusaders RFC on Landseer Avenue in Lockleaze, starting at noon.





T: Rob Verber 2, Mike Norman 3, Mike Gaston, Tom Verber 2, Max Woodward, Gerry Darley, Shervin Ghassemlou

C: Dom Swann 9 (from 11)




Bristol Sonics: Mike Norman, James Potts, John Jackson, Tom Oxlade, Joe Moore, Dom Swann, Mike Gaston (captain), Byron Edwards, Alex Potts, Connor Grant, Tom Verber, Joe Singleton, Rob Verber. Interchange: Simon Takape, Gerry Darley, Max Woodward, Kieran Harvey, Shervin Ghassemlou, Tristan Moore.


Somerset Vikings: Ben Williams, Zeky Cheng, Doug Caddick, Josh Wood, Cam Hellier, James Collings, Kevin Zenyama, Fergus Wood, Jay Hill, Bob Blainey, Jordan Tucker, Stephan Pierce, Joe Bossell. Interchange: Connor Crampton, John Ferguson, Ryan Sheppard, Ash Tucker.



Sonics: John Jackson

Vikings: Joe Bossell



Saturday 5th July 2014 will forever be known as Super Sonics Saturday, as Bristol Sonics’ celebrated the club’s first festival of Rugby League by recording two vital wins.


The Sonics first team grabbed their first win of a difficult Conference League South season, ending an eight-match losing streak with an impressive 46-18 win over Oxford Cavaliers.


Previously, Sonics’ seconds had put in a gusty backs-against-the-wall performance to squeeze out Swindon St George 20-18 to record back-to-back wins in the West of England League for the first time this season.


With a bumper crowd cheering on the home sides, and junior academy training sessions kick-starting a memorable afternoon, it provided a perfect send-off for Sonics stalwart Aran Simm, who leaves for a new life down under later this week. “Simmo” was able to play a big part in the day, pulling on a shirt to put in a shift for the second team, as they held on to a slender two-point lead for the last 25 minutes of a nerve-shredding contest with Swindon.


The day’s big news, though, was the first team’s win over Oxford, who have been struggling in recent weeks and turned up one player short. The Cavaliers put in an admirable and gutsy display, and at no point took a backward step despite their struggles. They may have tired badly in the closing stages, but they gave as good as they got for 65 minutes.


From the start, it looked like being Bristol’s day. A mistake from Oxford 30 metres from their own line 3 minutes in gave the Sonics a scrum in a promising position. Loose forward Will Tobin scooped the ball up from the base of the scrum, scooted left and had enough juice to outrun the visitors’ defence and cross over for the opening try of the game.


Having started well, the Sonics began reverting to type. A string of penalties and mistakes early in the tackle count resulted in long periods of Oxford pressure. The Cavaliers blew a number of good positions, and the Sonics’ inability to keep hold of the ball while exiting their own 20 meant that the Cavaliers, attacking with as much gusto as they could muster, would cross the whitewash at some point.


There was therefore a grim inevitability about the way hooker Wes Newton picked through the home side’s goal line defence with depressing ease on 15 minutes, with Any Winfield’s conversion putting the Cavaliers ahead.


Three minutes later, with the Sonics once again camped in their own 20, Newton repeated the trick, crossing for a second try that was once again converted by Winfield.


Things weren’t going to plan for the Sonics, but on 26 minutes they finally began to click into gear. After squandering a good attacking position, the Sonics got the ball back 40 metres out and set about putting Oxford under pressure. A few tackles later, prop forward Tony Harvey surged through on the left and touched down. Sadly, full-back Michael Harrison couldn’t convert.


Six minutes later, the Sonics took the lead, and this time Harrison was the instigator. Spotting Oxford’s full-back standing deep, he put in a beautiful chip kick which was collected on the bounce by centre Mike Gaston. He managed to find Harrison with a delicious offload, and the British Army player sprinted away to touch down. He converted his own try to put Bristol 16-12 ahead.


Many in the crowd thought that Oxford would crumble, but to their credit the Cavaliers hit back hard. On the stroke of half time Wes Newton completed a brilliant hat-trick of tries – once again converted by Winfield – to put the visitors 18-16 up at the break.


A few stern words from coach Jason Talbot at half time had the desired effect, and the Sonics were a team transformed in the second half. Their line-speed was much better, their defence tighter, and their attack much more pleasing on the eye. As Oxford tired, Bristol took control of the game, slowly stretching their lead before piling on the points in the closing stages.


After four minutes of the second period the Sonics regained the lead, second-rower Dan Harvey – brother of prop Tony – somehow found enough strength to barge over from close range, with Harrison converting. Six minutes later Harvey crossed again from an almost identical position, putting the Sonics in a strong position at 26-18 with 50 minutes gone.


By now, the Sonics were punching holes in the tiring Oxford defence when they attacked, and easily wrapping up the Caveliers’ attackers when they had the ball. That said, Bristol were still prone to errors, and hooker Mitch Spencer’s reaction to having a try ruled out for a double movement ended with him being sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.


It made little difference to the outcome, though, with the Sonics scoring four tries in the final 12 minutes. Harrison was again in the thick of the action, with his ugly offload giving winger Ryan Goodman the chance to force his way over in the right corner.


A few minutes later centre Shaun Allen scorched away from halfway for what looked like an inevitable score, but Oxford’s full-back brilliantly hauled him down inches from the line. With the Cavaliers defence still back-peddling, there was space for Bristol skipper Joe Singleton to scoop up the ball from acting half and dive over for a try underneath the posts. Harrison added the easy conversion.


With five minutes to go, Harrison broke clear and ran 45 metres to touch down between the posts – converting himself – before winger Jack Farler finished off a sweeping passing move to complete the scoring seconds from full-time.


It was a much-needed win given the side’s struggles this season, and naturally Head Coach Jason Talbot was delighted with the victory. He said: “We’ve been improving week on week, and today things finally went right for us. We did some good things in the first half, but our completion rate was poor and our goal-line defence left a lot to be desired. We addressed these concerns at half time and put in a much better second half performance. We shouldn’t get too carried away as we were playing a depleted side, but the way we kept them scoreless in the second half and scored plenty of points shows that we’ve turned the corner. Hopefully we can build on this over coming weeks, starting with next Saturday’s home game against Leicester.”


Earlier, Bristol Sonics ‘A’ provided home fans with plenty to cheer by holding off a late rally from Swindon St George to win 20-18 in the West of England League.


The Sonics started poorly, and were 12-0 down within as many minutes thanks to tries from Swindon’s Liam Rowe and Sam Argent, both converted by Gwyn Jenkins.


Slowly and surely the Sonics clawed their way back into the game, with half-back Rob Bell crossing from close range to register their first points of the afternoon. He converted his own try to put Bristol within six points of the visitors after 17 minutes.


Five minutes later the Sonics reduced the arrears further, veteran Johan Schoeman touching down in the corner after being released by winger Jordan Selig. Bell couldn’t convert, but it felt like Bristol had the wind in their sails.


Unfortunately, some handling errors and a string of penalties allowed Swindon a chance to hit back. From the position gained by a Bristol knock-on close to their line – admittedly under pressure from three Swindon attackers who looked to be offside – Gwyn Jenkins scooted over for a converted try the visitors a 10-point lead.


With seven minutes to go until half time, Rob Bell showed a great turn of speed to sprint away and touch down, with his conversion putting the Sonics 14-18 down at the break.


The second half was something of an arm wrestle, with defences dominating and both sides scrapping for the win. It took 15 minutes for the next score to come. In the end, it turned out to be decisive. Player/coach Tristan Moore, returning to the side after a number of weeks out, ran a perfect line to open up Swindon’s defence and touch down wide on the left. With Rob Bell off injured, it was left to hooker Harry Brooker to calmly add the extras and give Bristol a vital two-point lead.


As the game progressed and no further scores were added, tempers began to fray. Both sides just about managed to keep their cool. Swindon, though, blew a great opportunity to win it in the dying seconds, dropping the ball with the line begging. As it was, the Sonics held on for a vital win to send “Simmo” off to Australia a happy man.



There were times on Saturday when it looked, albeit fleetingly, like Bristol Sonics’ winless run in Conference League South may be coming to an end. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, with the Sonics again succumbing to a heavy defeat – this time at the hands of 2013 Grand Finalists Nottingham Outlaws.

As with previous matches this season, the Sonics showed glimpses of greatness but were guilty of not controlling the ball, giving away too many penalties, and allowing tries from avoidable defensive lapses.

It was a familiar story for Bristol’s small travelling band of supporters, who had headed to the University of Nottingham Sports Ground more in hope than expectation.

For all the disappointment, Head Coach Jason Talbot could see positives in his side’s performance. He said: “For the first time in a while, I thought we really looked like a team. The lads who pulled on the jersey gave it everything. We made mistakes, of course, but the effort was outstanding. We’re a team in transition, with a number of inexperienced players who are still finding their feet at this level, and in Rugby League. Our progress is slow, but we’re getting there. I expect that first win of the season to come sooner rather than later.”

Nobody epitomized this desire and effort more than second-rower Joe Singleton, stepping into skipper Dom Swann’s shoes. The former second team captain and Sonics stalwart led from the front, putting in a tireless shift in attack and defense. His desire to get the Sonics out of their losing rut was plain to see.

Reflecting on the match, Singleton said: “It was an honour to captain the side today. We’re going through a tough run at present, and it’s demoralizing for all of us. On Saturday the lads really had a go, and when things clicked – as they seem to do in spells in matches – we were the better team. We need to make sure we can do this over 80 minutes, and that’s our big challenge over the coming weeks. Do that, and our first win of the year will come.”

The Sonics started well, but fell behind early on to a try wide on the left. They were soon back into the game, though, with an error by Nottingham 20 metres from their own line offering loose forward Will Tobin the chance to break from the base of the scrum and feed winger Freddie Blanks, who scuttled over in the left corner.

Bristol battled manfully for the remainder of the half, showing good glimpses and largely defending well, while opening themselves up to sucker punches. Having spotted a weakness in the Sonics’ right side defence, the Outlaws repeatedly attacked on that side, scoring three more tries – one converted – down that side before the interval. Still, all was not lost at 18-4 at half time.

The second half again started positively, with Bristol squandering a couple of good opportunities to score before Nottingham hit them with a long range try. Soon, the floodgates opened, and it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes when the Sonics regained some control and began to show their skills. By that time, the home side had added three more tries – two of which were scored by hooker Scott Morton – and were effectively home and hosed.

Still, Talbot would have been impressed by the way his side finished the game. An altercation between centre Mike Gaston and his opposite number from Nottingham seemed to fire up the Sonics, who hit back hard in the final quarter of the game.

There was a moment of glory for young winger Jack Farler, who sprinted all of 60 metres down the touchline to score after receiving a near perfect pass from Fraser Robinson. Nottingham scored a runaway try shortly afterwards, before Bristol ended the game on a high with arguably the try of the game.

From a “free play” following a Nottingham error, Lawrence Roycroft broke free on the halfway line and found Joe Singleton in support. He charged down the middle of the pitch, only to be hauled down by a covering defender. As he fell, he slipped out a wonder offload to the supporting Fraser Robinson, who sprinted away to touch down under the posts. Fullback Mike Harrisson capped an impressive first team debut by adding the extras.

It was hardly a great day for the Sonics, but the way they finished it gives everyone a little more hope for the games to come. Bristol now return home, and host Oxford Cavaliers at Dings Crusaders’ Landseer Avenue ground on Saturday (5th July). The match is part of “Sonics Super Saturday”, a free festival of Rugby League featuring all four of the club’s teams. Entrance is free, with the first match kicking off at 11.30am.


Double Disappointment for Sonics

The Sonics Open Age teams endured a tough weekend with both 1st and 2nd teams in action for the first time this season. An understrength first team went down 44-18 away to Oxford and the seconds put in a brave performance but lost 70-50 away at Gloucestershire Warriors.

The 1st team found themselves under pressure from the kick-off as the Cavaliers camped down in their 20m but it took 12 minutes for the deadlock to be broken. Stand off Andy Winfield ghosted through the Sonic’s defence untouched to score under the posts giving the hosts a 6-0. The Sonics soon got back on level terms as they found some space down the right hand side. Dom Swann put centre Mike Gaston into a gap and he found his way over from 40m, beating the last defender with an outrageous side-step.

The game then saw defences on top till the 35th minute when the deadlock was broken by Ed Vickers who crashed over from 10 meters out to make it 10-6. Winfield once again added the easy extras to extend the lead to 12-6. Straight from the restart the Cavaliers broke once more and a weaving run Scrum Half Wez Newton saw him score next to the post to make the score 16-6. Andy Winfield once again added the simple extras making the half time score 18-6 to the Cavaliers.

The second half started off poorly for the away side with Ed Vickers picking up his second on 42 minutes and once again Winfield added the extras to put the Cavaliers in control at 24-6. The Sonic’s needed to score next to stay in touch and this they did with hooker Luke Williamson crossing over from close range. Swann added the extras to make it 24-12.

The Cavaliers then took advantage of a tiring Sonics defence having had control of the ball for the majority of the game. Four quick tries killed the game off before the Sonic’s had the last say with a try from winger Ryan Goodman on debut making the final score 44-18.


The 2nd team put in a brave performance in a game that Gloucestershire Warriors looked to have full control of at one stage. An improbable fightback was on the cards at one stage but Gloucestershire had enough quality to hold on despite conceding 10 tries. There were hatricks from Simon Price and 16 year-old Morgan Rees. Lawrence Roycroft added a brace with Harry Brooker and Freddie Blanks also crossing for the Sonics.


Both teams now have a week off league action over the bank holiday although a Sonics squad will be competing in the Bournemouth 7’s competition. Both teams return to action on the 31st May with the 1st team away to Leicester Storm and the 2nd team hosting Oxford Cavliers ‘A’.



Bristol Sonics’ dreams of a first Conference League South Grand Final appearance were dashed on Saturday, as they fell to a disappointing 21-8 defeat to in-form Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC.

The Sonics saved arguably their poorest performance of the season for their biggest game of the campaign. Nottingham, on the other hand, were inspired, and produced a performance worthy of the occasion. They were at Bristol right from the start, and had built up a 20-0 lead in just over 20 minutes. From then on, there was always going to be one winner.

Bristol did manage to produce a better second half performance and twice crossed the whitewash in the closing stages to restore some pride, but by then the match had long been decided. Given the season that the Sonics have had, it was a depressing anticlimax for fans, players and club officials alike.
Director of Rugby Karl Fearnley was particularly disappointed with his side’s display. He said: “I’m disappointed with the way the boys played today, and with our approach to the game. We just didn’t seem to be able to play to the level of intensity needed to win tough matches like this. We defended poorly in the first half. While we improved massively in the second half, you can’t expect to give a top team like Nottingham a 21 point start and expect to win. Credit must go to Nottingham for the way they performed, as they were excellent from the word go. That said, we never gave ourselves a chance, and that’s what hurts the most.”

Nottingham played some dazzling rugby in the first half and seemed to catch Bristol cold. They opened the scoring after just six minutes, scrum half Alex Whittle carving open Bristol’s defence with a simple dummy before jogging 30 metres to touch down. Two minutes later, they extended their lead further when a clever cross-field kick from Paul Calland found space behind the Sonics defence. Winger Sam Campbell scooped the ball up two metres from the line and dived over to touch down.

It got worse for Bristol. Further tries followed for the impressive Calland and a second for Campbell, and the visitors found themselves 20-0 up after just 22 minutes. Bristol briefly rallied late in the first half and saw a Marcus Brooker try chalked off for a forward pass, but the Outlaws were well worth their healthy lead. They rubbed salt into Sonics’ wounds on the half time hooter when Paul Calland slotted over a drop goal to edge the Outlaws further ahead.

Bristol lay siege to the Nottingham line for long periods in the second half, but struggled to breach the visitors’ well-organised defence. The home side did manage two scores in the final 10 minutes – centres Marcus Brooker and Mike Gaston crossing after excellent improvised attacking play – but by then Nottingham had already booked their place in the Grand Final on September 15.

It was a deflating end to what has largely been an excellent season for the Sonics, who finished second in the league having lost just three games all year.


BRISTOL SONICS            8

T: Marcus Brooker, Mike Gaston

Sin-bin: Wes Rodgers (79 mins – dissent)


T: Alex Whittle, Sam Campbell 2, Paul Calland

G: Paul Calland 2 (from 4). DG: Paul Calland

Referee: Danny McNiece
Man of the Match: Paul Calland (Nottingham Outlaws)


Bristol Sonics ended their regular season with a hard fought victory away to bottom-placed club St Albans Centurions. Travelling without a number of first team regulars, the Sonics made hard work of the first half but found their feet as the game went on to turn around a 22-20 half-time deficit to win 22-30.


The visitors struggled to get going in a first half played into a strong wind and against a St Albans side determined to get something out of their final game. The Sonics were guilty of not completing sets within their own half and St Albans made them pay with 2 tries within the first 10 minutes. The away side thought they had pulled one back after a 70m move saw winger James Raymond cross the line but his attempt was ruled out for a double movement.


Things got better for the hosts as they stretched their lead to 16-0 with another close range try having taken advantage of the Sonics indiscipline. But this seemed to finally stir the Bristol side into action and they hauled themselves back in to the game. First a Dom Swann cross-field kick was brilliantly palmed back in-field by wing Andre Samura for Marcus Brooker to go over for the first Sonics’ opener. Brooker, playing in the slightly unfamiliar position of half-back, also broke Swann’s five year old record of tries in a season as he crossed for what was his 17th try this year.


Brooker then turned provider when his half-break was supported by fullback Dan Evans to grab the Sonics’ second try which was converted by Swann. St Albans extended their lead with another converted try but Bristol struck back with two of their own to almost draw level in a half during which they had been second best. First Marcus Brooker’s neat kick over the line was collected by centre Mike Gaston who stepped past some desperate tackles for a try which was converted by Swann. Then on the stroke of half-time Dan Brooker crashed over out wide after some slick passing between the half-backs. Swann couldn’t convert to leave the half-time score 22-20.


After some stern words from coach Karl Fearnley the Sonics looked a better team in the second half. Although far from their free-flowing best, the visitors started making better use of their possession and the defence looked a lot tighter. In a fairly tight half the Sonics line was rarely tested and it wasn’t long before the lead had changed hands. Swann caught his own chip over the defensive line on the 5th tackle and moved the ball out to his half-back partner Brooker who put Anton Wells in for a try on debut. With Swann down winded after the move Brooker took over kicking duties and coolly slotted the conversion.


But the Sonics struggled to find the killer move that would secure the game. They thought they had it when Gaston touched down only for it to be ruled off-side. It finally came with 5 minutes left on the clock as some persistent pressure was turned into points when Dan Brooker got his second of the afternoon to leave the final score 22-30.


The result was irrelevant in terms of the league as second place had already been secured which brings with it a home play-off against 3rd placed Nottingham Outlaws. The Sonics will be hoping to welcome back a few key players for the game at Clifton RFC on Saturday 31st September.


BRISTOL SONICS: 1. Dan Evans 2. Andre Samura 3. James Gross 4. Mike Gaston 5. James Raymond 6. Dom Swann 7. Marcus Brooker 8. Wes Rodgers 9. Harry Marson 10. Dan Brooker 11. Lee Bartlett 12. Anton Wells 13. Joe Singleton 14. Will Tobin 15. Archie Gibbs 16. Matt Jacobs



Dan Brooker (2)

Marcus Brooker

Dan Evans

Anton Wells

Mike Gaston



Dom Swann (2)

Marcus Brooker



Andre Samura



A converted try from hooker Nick Portch with the last play of the game earned Bristol Sonics another dramatic, last-gasp 30-28 win over Leicester Storm.


With referee David Butler poised to blow for full time, Portch produced a moment of magic to dive over for the try that levelled the scores at 28-apiece. Sonics’ skipper Dom Swann kept his nerve to slot over the conversion from a tricky angle to earn Bristol their second last-minute win at New College, Leicester, in the space of four months.


Earlier in the season, the Sonics stole the points from the home side when veteran half back James Gross somehow squeezed over in the left corner with seconds remaining. Portch’s try came in similar circumstances, and fittingly was scored in almost exactly the same spot.


For Bristol, the victory was extra sweet given the circumstances surrounding the game. Missing a string of first team regulars and forced to travel with 15 (plus player/coach Aran Simm, who didn’t make it on to the pitch in the end), the Sonics were up against it from the start. Yet the players who stepped up from the second team – Nick Portch, Lee Bartlett, Alex Potts, Joe Singleton and Myles Raymond – fully justified their selection, playing an integral part in what will go down as one of the Sonics’ most memorable wins to date.


Things didn’t start particularly well for Bristol. After an error-strewn opening Leicester took the lead on seven minutes. The Sonics were culpable of dropping the ball in their own half, and the home side took full advantage. The ball was worked wide to the winger, who strolled in unopposed.


On 18 minutes Leicester extended their lead with a simple try, as a Storm player brushed off some weak attempted tackles to dive over beneath the posts. The conversion made it 10-0.


The home side were in control at this point. While Bristol made yards down the flanks, they were guilty of making too many errors and didn’t seem to be playing with the sort of fluidity fans have come to expect from the Sonics.


Slowly, things began to improve. As the half wore on Bristol began to enjoy more possession and good field position, and eventually made the home side pay. On 29 minutes loose forward Jake Robertson barged through a string of would-be tacklers on a 40-metre dash to the try line. Swann converted from the left touchline to reduce the arrears to four points.


Then, three minutes later, the Sonics levelled the scores when top try-scorer Marcus Brooker powered his way over from 10 metres out. Swann couldn’t convert.


Bristol looked to be getting on top, but within three minutes the home side had retaken the lead. Following a Sonics’ error 20 metres from their own line, Leicester probed the Bristol line for four tackles before finally breaching the visitors’ defence. The easy conversion put the home side six points ahead.


Worse was to come for Bristol in the dying seconds of the first half. Having earned good field position from another Leicester knock-on 30 metres from their own line, the Sonics sensed blood. Instead, the ball was intercepted by a Leicester player, who raced 70 metres before passing to a teammate, who dived over under the posts. The conversion sailed between the uprights, giving the home side a 22-10 lead at the break.


Having looked rusty and, at times, jaded in the first period, it seemed that Bristol would struggle in the second half. Crucially, though, they would be playing down New College’s sloping pitch, giving them a potential advantage in the closing stages if the game was close.


The Sonics began the half with real purpose, and scored within a minute of the restart. Having spotted a weakness in the home side’s right side defence (Bristol’s left edge attack), Marcus Brooker took full advantage, again forcing his way over to score his second try of the afternoon. It was his 16th of the season, tying Dom Swann’s club record for tries in a campaign. Swann couldn’t convert, but the Sonics were back in the game.


Something of an arm wrestle developed, as Bristol probed down the flanks and did their best to put the home side under pressure. For their part, Leicester looked rattled. Their error count increased, and they began to give away needless penalties.


Eventually, Bristol’s pressure told. On 58 minutes hooker Nick Portch burrowed his over from close range on the left for a try, converted by Swann, which left the Sonics trailing by just two points.


It would get worse before it got better, though. Having clawed their way back into contention, the Sonics’ slipped further behind with 12 minutes remaining. Some loose tackling allowed Leicester’s full back to surge through a gap and touch down under the posts. The conversion extended the home side’s lead to eight points.


The Sonics, though, have previous form when it comes to late comebacks, having won several games from losing positions this season. They were playing well and, surprisingly, looked the fresher and fitter of the two sides in the closing stages.


With eight minutes remaining, Bristol gave themselves hope with a brilliantly taken try from winger James Raymond, who dived in at the right corner after a wonderful, flowing, left-to-right passing move. Swann couldn’t convert, but the Sonics were now just four points behind.


As the clock ticked down, Bristol seemed to waste their big chance to sneak a win. With less than 2 minutes remaining, the Sonics spurned a four man overlap on the left and somehow lost the ball.


But the drama wasn’t over. Needing to simply complete a set of six to seal the win, Leicester dropped the ball 20 metres from their own line with a minute to go. One scrum and two tackles later, Nick Portch found himself at acting half back, two metres from Storm’s tryline. Sensing the Brooker brothers hovering at the left edge, looking for the ball, Leicester’s defenders instinctively shifted towards them. Portch feigned to pass in that direction before stepping the other way and diving through the resultant gap to level the scores.


With time up, skipper Swann had a chance to give his side victory. Taking a few deep breaths, he calmly slotted the conversion between the sticks and let out a primal roar. Once again, the Sonics had won a game they looked like losing.


Afterwards, Swann was predictably ecstatic. He said: “That has to go down as one of our best results of the season. It wasn’t a great performance, but we got better as the match went on and in the second half we were definitely the better side. What makes it so special is the side we had out. Lots of lads were asked to step up from the seconds and they all lifted their game. It will be hard to drop them now – playing like that should earn them a chance to play in our remaining league fixtures and stake a claim for a place in the team for the play-offs.”


The Sonics next face third-placed Nottingham Outlaws at Clifton RFC on Saturday 10th August (kick-off 2.30pm).




Bristol Sonics scorers

Tries: Jake Robertson (29 minutes), Marcus Brooker 2 (33 mins, 41 mins), Nick Portch 2 (58 mins, 80 mins), James Raymond (75 mins)

Conversions:  Dom Swann 3 (from 6)


Scoring sequence

4-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 10-10, 16-10, 22-10, 22-14, 22-20, 28-20, 28-24, 28-30






David Bulter


Man of the Match

Nick Portch (hooker)



Bristol Sonics endured a tough day at the office on Saturday, with both open age teams suffering heavy losses.


The first team, shorn of many regulars and forced to hand debuts to a string of second team players, was convincingly beaten 62-4 by Conference League South hotshots Sheffield Hallam Eagles, who were also missing several key players and traveled to Bristol with only 16 men.


The second team also struggled for numbers, and put in an admirable effort in a 66-14 loss to Somerset Vikings.


Special mention should go to Sonics’ players Freddie Blanks, Lee Bartlett and Mike Gaston, who played in both games, defying sweltering heat to do their bit for the cause. For Blanks and Bartlett, it was their first taste of first team rugby. They both put in a big stint against the odds.


The Sonics came into the game against Sheffield Hallam as leaders of Conference League South, but struggled to match the pace, power and intensity of their opponents.


Sheffield started confidently, and opened the scoring on six minutes when hooker Scott Smith dived over between the sticks, Tom Holt converting. The Sonics rallied, and on 16 minutes a marauding run from Daniel Brooker – forced to play for long spells at half back despite being a prop forward by trade – created the space for winger James Raymond to brush off his opposite number and sprint away to score. Alex Potts couldn’t add the extras.


It wasn’t long before Sheffield extended their lead. On 21 minutes, powerful centre Tom Ashton, building on momentum created by quick play-the-balls and clever running from Scott Smith, broke the Sonics’ line 40 metres out and jogged away to touch down.


Bristol were given a rare opportunity to attack Sheffield’s line when the Eagles made a hash of Daniel Brooker’s kick off, but the Sonics couldn’t make the most of the resultant set of six.


The Sonics were second best for much of the first half, but hung in the game impressively and kept Sheffield at bay for long periods. You couldn’t fault the home side’s effort or eagerness, and they showed great resolve to stick with an Eagles side that has beaten all-comers this season.


Despite these heroic efforts to stick with their opponents, who put on something of a masterclass in simple, tough, high-tempo Rugby League, it would only be a matter of time before Sheffield made their dominance count.


When they scored on the stroke of half time, Chris Cullimore finishing off a Corey Hanson break, it was a warning of what was to come.


Within six minutes of the restart, 18-4 had become 34-4. Sheffield scored from their first set of six, Donald Kudangirana stretching out to touch down out wide, and then followed it up with further quick scores from stand-out full-back Joey Luttrull and Tom Ashton.


It got worse for the Sonics. Although they tried their best to stem the tide of red shirts surging forwards, they simply couldn’t slow down Sheffield’s momentum. The Eagles dominated possession and made the most of it, scoring five further tries through Chris Palmer, Corey Hanson, Bradley Tattersall (2) and Tom Holt, who finished the game with a personal haul of 20 points thanks to eight successful conversions.


When the final whistle came, it was a great relief to Bristol’s battered and bruised bodies.


Bristol Sonics coach Aran Simm said: “Sheffield were terrific today and thoroughly deserved their win – they were a class apart at times. I would also like to pay a massive compliment to our lads for the way they faced up today. It was a largely inexperienced side, with several players making their first team debuts, and they didn’t give in. Any defeat hurts, especially when you’re challenging for honours at the top of the table, but we can learn from this, dust ourselves down and look to get back to winning ways next week.”


The Sonics next face Northampton Demons at Clifton RFC, Henbury, on Saturday 13 July, kick off 2.30pm.



Marcus Brooker grabbed four tries as Bristol Sonics ground out a 32-0 win against Conference League South strugglers St Albans Centurions at Landseer Avenue.


The win cements the Sonics’ place at the top of the Conference League South table, one point ahead of next week’s visitors, Sheffield-Hallam Eagles, who romped to a 62-20 win over third-placed Nottingham Outlaws.


The Sonics began the game strongly, forcing an error from Centurions’ full back Gareth Waters following a high kick from Daniel Brooker. Following the scrum, the ball was worked left to Marcus Brooker, who slipped an offload inside to supporting runner Dan Evans, who dived over to open the scoring after just two minutes. Daniel Brooker, who would later go off with a painful hip injury, slotted over the conversion in a swirling wind.


Bristol failed to build on their positive opening and were soon on the back foot. St Albans ran hard, cleverly picking out perceived weaknesses in the home side’s defence. For their part, Bristol struggled to retain possession, gave away some needless penalties and spent most of the first 30 minutes defending in their own half. Thankfully, the Sonics held firm, forcing errors from their opponents in good positions.


In attack, Bristol were wasteful, and their lack of completion was a constant frustration for players and supporters alike. Despite a great all-round performance from hooker Rory Sharratt, who was rightly named man-of-the-match, the Sonics struggled to get any fluidity with ball in hand, and too often resorted to trundling it down the middle. On the rare occasions they did get the ball wide quickly, St Albans struggled to cope.


On 28 minutes, a series of relieving penalties allowed Bristol a rare chance to attack the Centurions’ line. They gleefully took the opportunity, Marcus Brooker powering his way over from close range. Brother Daniel again converted, curling the ball between the uprights to make the score 12-0.


Less than two minutes later, the Sonics extended their lead further. After working their way down field, Marcus Brooker again powered over from close range, this time taking several tacklers with him as he crossed the whitewash. This time, Daniel couldn’t convert, but at 16-0 things were looking pretty rosy, despite the patchy performance.


To their credit, St Albans didn’t let their heads’ drop, and roared back in the latter stages of the first half. They lay siege to the Sonics’ line for the last five minutes of the half, but simply couldn’t find a way through Bristol’s watertight defence. Having done the hard work setting up great field position, they lacked composure and didn’t quite have enough to cross the whitewash.


The arm-wrestle continued early in the second period, with St Albans making good yards down the middle and Bristol defending stoutly, despite sluggish line speed. The Sonics, for their part, continued to struggle to complete sets and still lacked some spark in attack. With scrum half Johan Schoeman off injured, responsibility fell to first team debutant Alex Potts, who earned his chance through some eye-catching performances for the second team. He seemed to warm to the play-making role as the match went on.


Eventually, Bristol began to enjoy more possession and field position. On 60 minutes, a rare chance to attack in St Albans’ territory ended, predictably, with another close range score for man-of-the-moment Marcus Brooker. The powerful centre again forced his way over from five metres out, just to the left of the posts, to complete his third hat-trick of the season. With Daniel Brooker off injured, Rory Sharratt stepped up to slot over an easy conversion.


Ten minutes later, it got better for Brooker and Bristol. When St Albans’ centre David Coyle made a hash of a poor pass from Sam Norris 10 metres from the Sonics’ line, the ball was hacked forward by Johan Schoeman. Dan Evans won the race to the ball, and somehow managed to snaffle it up before Centurions’ full back Gareth Waters. From the resultant play-the-ball, Rory Sharratt and Alex Potts combined to release Marcus Brooker on the left, 40 metres out. He swerved his way past two covering defenders before jogging away to touch down for his fourth try of the afternoon, and second four-try haul of the season.


With St Albans wilting, the Sonics began to find more space and make more ground with ball in hand. It took less than two minutes for Bristol to score again, Sharratt and Potts releasing Dan Evans on the right, who cut through St Albans’ defence like a hot knife through butter and cantered 35 metres to touch down. Alex Potts slotted over the conversion to make it 32-0 and complete the scoring.


After the game, Sonics’ coach Aran Simm was full of praise for his side’s defensive display. He said: “We struggled at times today in attack, but the lads put in a massive defensive shift and that’s what made the difference. St Albans played with a lot of heart and the half time scoreline of 16-0 to us was a bit flattering, if I’m honest. We improved as the game wore on, and deserved the win, but it wasn’t perhaps the dominant performance I’d have liked.


“All the lads who played today put in a massive shift. It’s rare in Rugby League that you ‘nil’ a team, and I’m told that the Sonics have only ever managed it once before. That’s something we should take from this game. Our linespeed could be a lot quicker, and we’ll need to work on that in training, but there weren’t many missed tackles and for the most part we controlled the play the ball. We’ll need to improve next week, but this is a step in the right direction.”


Meanwhile, an under strength Bristol Sonics ‘A’ side showed great heart in a 74-18 loss to Gloucestershire Warriors at Old Centralians, Gloucester. The Sonics second-string, which features a number of promising youngsters and committed veterans, will be hoping for a better result when they take on Somerset Vikings at home next Saturday, in a curtain raiser for the first team clash with Sheffield-Hallam Eagles.



Dan Evans (2 Tries), James Raymond, Mike Gaston, Marcus Brooker (4 Tries), Will Tobin; Alex Potts (1 Goal), Johan Schoeman; Daniel Brooker (2 goals), Rory Sharratt (1 goal), Jack Spooner, Neil Evans, Tom Verber, Rob Verber (captain.

Interchange (all used): Curtis Asante, Joe Singleton, Gary Carpenter, Jack Gibson.